Using Census Records
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Using Census Records

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Using census records to research your family tree

Using census records to research your family tree

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  • 1. Where do you come from? Census
  • 2. Your Information Find it Yourself Known Relatives Information Ask them New relatives Information Genes Reunited BMD Information Census Information Parish Registers Information Other Sources Of Information
  • 3. CENSUSES CIVIL BMD RECORDS About 1840 PARISH RECORDS GENES REUNITED GENUKI , FHS, GOONS, ETC GOOGLE, ROOTSWEB and OTHER LISTS Ancestry.co.uk LDS 1881 Findmypast.com FreeBMD Ancestry Findmypast.com Local BMD sites LDS Microfiche LDS IGI / BVRI
  • 4. Census
    • A census was taken to record those living in each household at midnight on a Sunday. The dates of the census varied from year to year
    • Sun/Mon. 6/7th June 1841
    • Sun/Mon. 30/31st March 1851
    • Sun/Mon. 7/8th April 1861
    • Sun/Mon. 2/3rd April 1871
    • Sun/Mon. 3/4th April 1881
    • Sun/Mon. 5/6th April 1891
    • Sun/Mon. 31st March / 1st April 1901
    • Sun/Mon 2/3rd April 1911
  • 5.  
  • 6. National Archives Reference for each Census 1841: HO107 1851: HO107 1861: RG9 1871: RG10 1881: RG11 1891: RG12 1901: RG13-
  • 7. Census Records For the purpose of the census, the country was divided into registration and sub-registration districts, and the process generated enumeration books that covered districts of several hundred houses
  • 8. Census returns 1801-1831
    • The dates of the first four censuses are 10 March 1801, 27 May 1811, 28 May 1821 and 29 May 1831.
    • Only the following totals were required for each parish: occupied and unoccupied houses; families; men and women; occupations; and baptism, marriage and burial statistics.
  • 9. The 1841 census
    • Information about individuals was requested for the first time, recorded in columns on a grid-like form. They can be difficult to read, as the enumerators used pencil to record the information and the quality of handwriting varies.
      • Forename and surname
      • Age, rounded down to the nearest five years if over 15
      • Sex
      • Occupation
      • Where they were born, either in the county of residence (Y or N), Scotland (S), Ireland (I) or foreign parts (P)
  • 10. 1841 Census Sample
  • 11. The 1841 census
    • Relationships between family members are not noted.
    • Although an address for each property was required, it is rare to find anything other than the name of the hamlet in rural areas, or the street name if situated in a town or city.
    • Similarly, take great care with the recorded ages. They are usually very misleading, as people aged 59 and 61 would be recorded as 55 and 60 respectively, and it is possible to find two or more children listed as aged 15, whereas in fact they may have been aged 19, 17 and 15.
  • 12. Census returns 1851-1901
    • The returns for these censuses all contain roughly the same information, much expanded from the 1841 returns.
    • They are also in general far easier to interpret, having been completed in ink. The format was still a grid-based enumeration form, though greatly expanded from 1841 to take the additional information.
  • 13. Census returns 1851-1901
    • The following data can be expected for each individual :
      • Forename, (sometimes middle name or just an initial), and surname
      • Relationship to head of household
      • Marital status
      • Age at last birthday, including how many months for infants under 1 year old
      • Sex
      • Occupation or source of income
      • County and parish of birth if in England or Wales; or country of birth if outside
      • Any medical disabilities they might have suffered from
      • From 1891 in Wales: language spoken
  • 14. Typical grid of a Census Form
  • 15. Pieces and Folios
    • A census Piece is a collection of many individual enumerators' books for a district.
    • A census Folio is a sheet within one of those books note: not a "page" - a folio is the front and back of a sheet, in other words, two pages)
    • Each enumerator had a pre-printed book that he had to fill in. A book may have anything from about 20 sheets up to about 40 (double sided). Those books were collected, and were later bound into combined books of between about 50 and 200 leaves. It is this combined book that is a census Piece.
  • 16. Folio After binding, the books had the folio number stamped on the upper right corner of every sheet. (The back of the sheet was not stamped).
  • 17. 1851 Census Record
  • 18. 1861 Census sample
  • 19. 1881 Census Example
  • 20. Census returns 1851-1901
    • Although the level of detail provided was still at the discretion of the enumerator and the willingness of the householders to co-operate an increasing amount of information is provided about property addresses.
    • More house names or numbers are increasingly used as time progressed; though earlier returns for rural areas still tend to group houses by hamlet or street.
    • Each property is separated from the next by double parallel lines in the margin, with households within a single property separated by a single line.
  • 21. The 1901 census
    • The returns of the 1901 census, taken on 31 March, were made public on 1 January 2002. They contain the same data as those from 1851-1891, with the following additions:
    • whether an employer or employee
    • language spoken in Isle of Man
  • 22. Accuracy The process of enumerating the population created problems of accuracy long before modern researchers tried to interpret the information. In addition, enumerators would have found it difficult to read the poor hand writing of those who could write, which has created problems of transcription errors and spelling variations or even missing information
  • 23. Accuracy Unfortunately, since the individual schedules do not survive for comparison, we will never know what exactly was recorded, whether our family member wrote the information themselves, whether they were able to spell, or even whether the enumerator missed information completely.
  • 24. Literacy: Unfortunately the censuses were conducted at a time when up to half the adult population were illiterate or at best, semi-literate. Many people would have found it difficult to read and interpret the instructions on the pre-printed schedules and this would have led them to either record or verbally provide inaccurate and incomplete information
  • 25. Household Addresses Identifying the address of a household is often a problem. In towns and urban areas, few houses were numbered until the end of the nineteenth century. In many areas street names and house numbers were periodically revised. In rural areas addresses are vague or not provided at all.
  • 26. Reading the Census One of the greatest problems for researchers is trying to read the census enumerator's books. For example, in 1841, the books were completed in pencil. In later censuses cheap ink was used that has since bled and/or faded. The access to these books on microfilm only makes the challenge of reading the information greater.
  • 27. Recording of Names Census records are no different than any other research tool containing poor writing coupled with mis-interpretations and mis-spellings of names. Surnames only very gradually became standardised after civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1837. Coupled with problems of illiteracy and poor hand writing, researchers must always use their imagination when searching for variant spellings of their surnames. Was the surname written recorded phonetically - that is, spelled as it sounded
  • 28. Using Census Records As with all other types of research, start with more recent data and work backwards. Look across all censuses that could apply to pick up an individual error in a particular census. As with all systems with indexes, errors may have crept in, and thus it may be hard to locate ancestors if their names have been incorrectly transcribed in the various census indexes. In these instances you will have to conduct a manual trawl.
  • 29. Understanding Relationships Although usually straightforward, the recording of relationships between members of a household can sometimes present problems when trying to identify stepchildren, relationships among lodgers, boarders and visitors For example, the term "Daughter-in-law" can sometimes mean a step-daughter as well as the more recognized meaning "son's wife"
  • 30. Marital Status The marital status of householders is usually pretty clearly documented. The problem arises in trying to identify the spouse of a second marriage and common-law relationships. Yes, common law relationships did exist but are often hidden with relationship designations such as ‘visitor', 'servant' or 'lodger'.
  • 31. How old? Rounding of ages was not always followed. When the age of consent was 21, it was not unusual to find people lying about their age in order to rent accommodation, get married or gain similar adult privileges. At the same time, the age of a child may be falsified if that child was a worker and did not want to loose his/her job.
  • 32. How old? Rounding of ages was not always followed. When the age of consent was 21, it was not unusual to find people lying about their age in order to rent accommodation, get married or gain similar adult privileges. At the same time, the age of a child may be falsified if that child was a worker and did not want to loose his/her job.
  • 33. Birth Place There are many examples where an individual gave a different place of birth in each census Usually, the place of birth information is fairly accurate, however, as with any sound research - only a preponderance of other evidence will determine for certain the accuracy of the birthplace recorded on the census
  • 34. Using Census Records Always conduct simultaneous research in both census returns and bmd records, as you can use information from one search to help research in another. For example, age from census returns can be used to locate a marriage or birth; whilst addresses on certificates can narrow down where to look in the census records. Do bear in mind that census ages are not always accurate, so proceed with caution, searching a year or two either side of the probable date.
  • 35. Using Census Records
    • In urban areas you can use additional sources, such as trade or local residential directories, to narrow down your search to a particular street or residential district.
    • When you have found a relevant entry, make sure you note the full census reference for your records. This should include the folio and page number from which you extracted data, as well as the National Archives reference (RG11, HO107 etc.)
  • 36. Reasons for non-appearance in Census Records
    • If your relative does not appear in the expected place, it could be that they were away from their residence on the night the census was taken.
    • This a major drawback of census returns
    • Remember that they represent a mere snapshot of residency for only a single night in a ten-year period.
    • Where could they have been?
  • 37. Reasons for non-appearance in Census Records
    • Perhaps they travelled the country to seek work, or moved away from the traditional family location, between census years.
    • Perhaps you should check the neighbouring parish, particularly if an ancestor got married in the intervening years and went to live near their partner’s family.
    • Similarly it is always worth checking institutions, such as barracks, prisons, schools, workhouses or asylums, and vessels at sea, which are included separately in census returns from 1851.
  • 38. Reasons for non-appearance in Census Records
    • Remember that householders voluntarily provided the data recorded by the enumerators. Incorrect information is therefore likely to be recorded.
    • In particular, some names are recorded erroneously on the form, particularly if they written down phonetically by the enumerator. Alternatively, householders might provide pet names instead of their real ones, or swap first and middle names over.
  • 39. Reasons for non-appearance in Census Records
    • You will often find that ages of family members may fluctuate between census years. Once again this is due to incorrect information provided by the householders or enumerator error.
    • You may find that other data can be wrong, such as the place of birth. Indeed, even relationships between family members can be inaccurately recorded, as terms such as “cousin” and “brother” were used to describe distant blood relatives or relations through marriage
  • 40. Using Census Records Careful manipulation of census and certificate data in tandem should enable you to not only work back towards ancestors who were born in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, but widen your family tree to include siblings of direct antecedents located through certificate searches.
  • 41. Where do you come from?